2019 Lynk & Co 01 bows with Chinese money, Swedish roots and US plans

Volvo sister brand shows hybrid car-sharing SUV with lifetime warranty in Shanghai.

Chris Paukert
Chris Paukert Former executive editor / Cars

Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015. Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.

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Hot on the heels of its second concept debut, Lynk & Co has just shown off what it claims is "the world's most connected car" at the Shanghai Motor Show.

Dubbed 01, the compact crossover is Lynk & Co's first production vehicle. It looks similar to the concept that was revealed last October, and the design is a lot easier to appreciate than the awkward company name it bears. This offering from the new marque owned by longtime Chinese automaker Geely -- which also owns Volvo -- promises to deliver advanced tech that could fundamentally change the way many people interact with their vehicles.

Developed with engineering and design resources from both automakers, the 01 compact hybrid crossover is being touted for its connected-car features, but it should offer a modern drive experience, too. It's built on the new Compact Modular Architecture platform, a modular chassis that will underpin Volvo's forthcoming small vehicle range, including the nearly here XC40 crossover. It's even slated to be built in the same Chinese plant.

The new 01 relies on a Volvo-derived gas-electric powertrain featuring a 1.5-liter, three-cylinder gas-powered engine, backed by an electric motor. A version of the Swedish automaker's 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine is also expected, and a plug-in hybrid model and a pure EV are likely to be announced later.

Lynk & Co 01
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Lynk & Co 01

Lynk & Co are still working out the particulars of the company's "lifetime warranty" promise.

Lynk & Co

While the 01 is likely to be less expensive than its Scandinavian XC40 relative when available in the same markets, don't be fooled into thinking that it will be a cheap product, either in cost or execution. The plan is to offer the 01 basically one way, fully loaded, including with the very latest active safety features gleaned from Volvo's parts bin. In addition, expect solid in-car infotainment through the 10.1-inch touchscreen system co-developed with Microsoft and Alibaba, including features like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration.

Lynk & Co plans to enter the US market soon. Its success will be predicated not only on consumers' acceptance of an unknown Chinese brand, but also on its ability to establish a direct-to-consumer distribution model with a heavy online component. Lynk & Co plans to offer its vehicles straight to buyers online and through company owned stores and pop-ups.

Their strategy is not entirely unlike that of Tesla Motors. The California EV-maker has struggled to establish a nationwide sales and service network amidst America's patchwork of dealer franchise laws protected by powerful dealer associations. Lynk & Co's plan is to have small storefronts in urban areas, with scheduled pickups and drop-offs for service.

Lynk & Co's 2019 01 crossover is ready for production

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The Chinese startup also expects to market the 01 with fixed pricing, using both traditional financing and leasing plans, but a planned third availability channel is more interesting. The company has pledged to also offer its vehicles via subscription model without a downpayment, with users only paying for cars as long as they want one.

Lynk & Co says it will allow owners to share their vehicles using e-keys through a smartphone app co-developed with Ericsson. This suggests that the company plans to muscle in on more established car-sharing firms such as Zipcar and Maven. It also aims to allow third-party app development and cloud integration.

Given that there's likely to be a lot of data called for, it's nice to hear that the company has confirmed that free data traffic for the purposes of connectivity will be standard on all of its cars. Furthermore, Lynk & Co is promising a lifetime warranty, along with a roadside assist component. The finer points of these promises will be revealed when the first cars go on sale, but at the moment, it's unclear if such protections will also be available in the US when the company sets up shop Stateside.

Interestingly, this new automaker even hopes to do away with model years, a plan that may foment consumer confusion and could well run into both practical and legal hurdles here in North America.

The 01 is slated to go on sale in Q4 in China later this year, with US and European rollouts planned for 2019.